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On this day in 1545 the Mary Rose, flagship of the English navy, sank off the Isle of Wight.
The English King, Henry VIII was watching. One wonders what he thought. History does not record what he said. The Mary Rose was fighting off a French invasion fleet when she sank and the reason for this is still not properly understood. It is probable that the ship was incorrectly balanced and top heavy with the weight of cannon and other guns and men.
It was two centuries later that naval ships became the ponderous floating gun platforms that won so many battles for Britain. The Mary Rose debacle was a disaster at the time and 73 men died as the ship rapidly sank. In 1982 the remains of the ship were lifted from the sea and carefully restored at Portsmouth, where they are now on display, giving a fascinating look at naval shipboard life of the time.
Today’s poem by American Walt Whitman is about seafaring and its dangers, Aboard at a Ship’s Helm:
Aboard at a ship’s helm,
A young steersman steering with care.
Through fog on a sea-coast dolefully ringing,
An ocean-bell—O a warning bell, rock’d by the waves.
O you give good notice indeed, you bell by the sea-reefs ringing,
Ringing, ringing, to warn the ship from its wreck-place.
For as on the alert O steersman, you mind the loud admonition,
The bows turn, the freighted ship tacking speeds away under her
The beautiful and noble ship with all her precious wealth speeds
Away gayly and safe.
But O the ship, the immortal ship! O ship aboard the ship!
Ship of the body, ship of the soul, voyaging, voyaging, voyaging
Today I ask that I will be helped to steer the ship of my soul on a steady course.